On a visit to a Roman parish Sunday evening, the Pope had lively discussions with various groups from the congregation, including children preparing to receive their First Communion. He told them about his own First Communion 70 years ago.
On his arrival at the parish of Saint Joseph all’Aurelio, in the western sector of the Diocese of Rome, the Pope met with little children, the sick and families with children baptized in the course of the year. The Holy Father then heard the confessions of some penitents. Finally, he presided over Mass for Gaudete Sunday.
In greeting the children, he said, “There are those of you here who are going to make their First Communion. Do you know? This year was the 70th anniversary of my First Communion: 70 years ago I made my First Communion. A long time ago, no? I made it on Oct. 8, 1944.”
He said he remembered the occasion “as if it were today.”
“I was prepared, for a year, by a very good Sister, who was called Dolores. […] And also the catechists, both were called Alice. They taught us. Then the day arrived. […] And we all entered the church with our hands stuck together, like this … and we sang, a song that perhaps you know: ‘O holy altar, guarded by the Angels, I come to you for the first time.’ […] But I shall never forget that day.”
Noting that later in the day he received Confirmation, the Pope invited them, “You, who will make your First Communion, always remember that day your whole life: the first day that Jesus came in to us. He comes, makes himself one with us, makes himself our food, our nourishment to give us strength.”
Adding that they should also remember the catechists, the Pontiff said that when the Sister who prepared him for Communion died on Oct. 17, 1987, “I went there and was there with her corpse and I prayed so much, because that Sister brought me close to Jesus. Don’t forget the catechists, all right? Don’t forget the date, ok? And every year, on the date, go make a good Confession and Communion: all right?”
Later, after thanking the sick for their ministry in the Church, he met with the families of those recently baptized.
“In Baptism, you gave the faith, you transmitted the faith through the Sacrament, but after many years, they will do the same with their children, and thus the faith — from the time of Jesus to today — is like a chain that is transmitted by parents. And this is a beautiful responsibility! Don’t forget the day of your Baptism, don’t ever forget it!” he said.
The Pope explained that he was baptized on Christmas day, eight days after his Dec. 17 birthday, because “at that time it was the custom – at least in Argentina – to baptize children eight days after their birth.”
“I pray for you. May you have joy, joy with these children, joy in the home, joy in hope, so much joy. And I give you my blessing,” he said.
Then he concluded with a final reflection: “What I wanted to say is this: children cry, make noise, go from one side to the other … and I am so annoyed when a child cries in church and people want him to go outside. No! It is the best homily! The cry of a child is God’s voice. Truly, never, never chase them out of the church! Thank you so much!”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full Text of Homily: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-pope-s-homily-at-st-joseph-all-aurelio-parish-in-rome
Full Text of Additional Remarks: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-pope-s-words-to-children-sick-baptized-children-nomads-at-roman-parish-of-st-joseph-all